By Yvonne Dennis, 246

Central’s RoboLancers can concentrate on performing their best at the FIRST world robotics championship in St. Louis next week rather than on how they are going to get there thanks to two surprise, generous donations today.

After reading in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning about the efforts of the 100-plus-member team to raise the $35,000 needed to travel to and properly compete at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Championship April 22-25, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter called Central President Timothy McKenna.

Mr. McKenna told the mayor the challenge was daunting but somehow the school and its supporters would get them there. The team’s Gofundme Internet fundraising effort had already gotten several thousand dollars in donations.

“He told me, ‘They’re going’,” said Mr. McKenna, meaning the mayor would see to it personally.

In quick succession Mayor Nutter called Mr. McKenna back: The University of Pennsylvania would provide $20,000 toward the costs.

A short time later the mayor informed him that Drexel University would also give $20,000. It was an exciting flurry of news and a huge relief to so many.

“When I learned that these incredible young people, who have worked hard and earned the opportunity to compete at the world championship, might not have the chance to travel to St. Louis and showcase their incredible, innovative work because of a lack of funding, I couldn’t stand idle,” the mayor said in a news release.

“I called Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, two great partners and major supporters of STEM-centric initiatives, and I am proud to say that they stepped up to the challenge of helping these deserving Philadelphia students.”

Mayor Nutter continued: “I want to congratulate the RoboLancers and wish them well at the world championship.”

Drexel University President John Fry said the RoboLancers are an inspiration to young people across Philadelphia. “These students are outstanding problem solvers and reflect great credit on the city,” Mr. Fry said. “Drexel University is honored to help them get to St. Louis.”

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann expressed delight on behalf of the Ivy League school at being able to help these budding innovators. “The University of Pennsylvania is one of the world leaders in robotics, and we hope we will be seeing some of these great students on our campus in the years ahead.”

In fact, the RoboLancers already have a relationship with Penn. As part of their outreach forts to promote STEM–Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education–to kids of all neighborhoods and schools all around the city, RoboLancers President  Stanley Umeweni (274) and team members will be co-hosting the Philly Robotics Expo April 20 at Penn. The event will feature workshops to interest kids of all ages in robotics.

Mr. McKenna said the two university donations along with the $16,101 raised in the Gofundme effort would help team members compete next week and help next year’s team pick up the torch.

“We are so appreciative that Mayor Nutter has worked with the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University to fund the Central High School RoboLancers trip to the Robotics World Championships in St. Louis,” Mr. McKenna said. “This is a life-changing event for our students, who have worked tirelessly to qualify for this competition. The RoboLancers team is made up of the next generation of STEM leaders. These students are deeply committed to science, mathematics and promoting careers in the STEM fields.”

Team coach Michael Johnson said, “The core mission of the RoboLancers is to inspire Philadelphia students of all ages to explore and study STEM fields. The outpouring of support from individuals and organizations around the city that we have received this week shows the community’s overwhelming endorsement of our efforts.”

The RoboLancers team was one of two selected from 122 competing in the Mid-Atlantic Region to compete in St. Louis, winning the Chairman’s Award. The Chairman’s Award is the FIRST competition’s highest honor and is awarded to the team that most exemplifies the spirit of FIRST and its work to promote science and technical education among high school students.

The RoboLancers is an extra-curricular activity that receives no funding from the School District of Philadelphia. The team appreciates all the support it has received from alumni mentors and donors including Joseph Carlini’s (239) engineering services company, McKean Defense Group, Joan Spain and Kal Rudman (188).

Keep up with the team at